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Girl, Interrupted 

Alanna Krause believes that much of her hellish childhood could have been avoided. Now she's suing her father, her therapist, and her lawyer in an effort to prove it. How did it come to this?

Wednesday, Dec 18 2002

Page 2 of 7

During her mother's treatment, Alanna lived with her father, and the parents returned to a seemingly functional custody arrangement once Simone-Smith returned to the Bay Area. But disputes arose again, and in December 1993, Krause initiated court proceedings because he claimed that Simone-Smith was withholding Alanna from him.

Simone-Smith explains that Krause would not agree to a visitation schedule Alanna wanted, and that he also refused to see Alanna for two weeks and then blamed Simone-Smith for the rift.

Krause has a different take. "Lauren wouldn't let me visit Alanna," he insists. "I didn't want to fight about custody. I wanted 50-50. But Alanna's mother wanted 100 percent, and she ended up with 0 percent. Not that I asked for it, but I was given sole custody of Alanna, and I did my best to raise her."

In addition to speaking at national conferences on domestic violence and child abuse, Alanna has written articles about her experience as a child in the family court system, where, she says, she felt like "property to be divided."

"Hundreds of years of legal history have lead the United States to implement a system that ensures that every party in a legal proceeding gets a voice," she wrote in an article in a San Francisco legal publication. "But there is a forgotten minority that is not afforded these basic rights. ... Children get their 'best interests' represented by adults. We children have no choice and no recourse when those adults have their own agenda."

On top of dealing with the usual complexity of family court cases, the Krauses were arguing in the Marin County family courts, known for cronyism among a clique of judges and attorneys who called themselves the Family Law Elite Attorneys, as documented in numerous newspaper articles (including an October 2000 SF Weekly article, "Odor! Odor in the Court," by Matt Isaacs). As a result of the actions of the FLEAs, one judge at the center of the group became the subject of an FBI probe.

Commissioner Sylvia Shapiro, who acted as the judge in the case, along with two of Marshall Krause's attorneys, Judith Cohen and John McCall, are affiliated with the FLEAs. (Krause himself was a past president of the Marin County Bar Association.) Shapiro assigned therapist Dr. Edward Oklan to serve as the court-appointed evaluator, and asked attorney Sandra Acevedo to represent Alanna, then 10. Alanna was not allowed at any of the proceedings.

Throughout the case, Alanna tried to make clear that she wanted to live with her mother. She says she told her family therapist, Oklan, and Acevedo her concerns. As Alanna's current lawsuit claims, "Krause repeatedly, intentionally, violently, and cruelly assaulted and battered" her. She begged Acevedo to enter evidence of her father's behavior, but Acevedo did not do so. Alanna began writing letters to Shapiro saying that she wanted to live with her mother and visit her father every other weekend. Alanna closes one letter (her mother kept copies) by writing in large letters, "Please listen!" She never received a response.

Shapiro declined to speak about the specifics of the case, but said via phone that she is "satisfied with the decision, which I made in accordance with the facts as I understood them."

But Alanna says Shapiro never heard her side of the story. "I tried several ways [to get my message across]," Alanna says. "I was a kid, but I was interested in what was going on. I knew this decision would affect my life."

Simone-Smith, meanwhile, says she could not afford a lawyer, and represented herself in the custody battle until the last few months. Throughout the case, observers say, she was often overwrought and exasperating, undercutting her allegations that Krause was physically abusing and neglecting Alanna.

"Lauren was representing herself, and Marshall had a great attorney," says Kathryn Ballentine Shepherd, Krause's former law partner and a FLEA whistle-blower. "Marshall himself is a superb attorney, and he is totally into the most precise details of everything, and how to manipulate things. No, she'd be no match for him. Lauren is tearing her hair out, trying to figure out what is going on -- why she doesn't have any money, why her child is being taken away from her. And [John] McCall is standing there with the respect that he is given, and Marshall is there with all the respect that he is given, and then there's Lauren, this former hippie.

"And Lauren would lose it. She'd be crying, castigating the court for its failure to hear the child or her. Poor Lauren was not treated very nicely, and she did not treat the court very nicely, either. She was contentious, emotional. The little girl was caught in the fray. The whole system seemed to be saying, 'Here's the former president of the Marin County Bar Association, who had worked at the ACLU, a prominent attorney. Why should we believe this kid?'"

Alanna told Edward Oklan about her father's behavior and about how much she wanted to live with her mother, but his August 1994 recommendation to Shapiro focused primarily on Simone-Smith's mental health history as evidence that she was an unfit parent. Some of the information for the report came from Lana Clark, Alanna's family therapist, whom, Alanna says, her father was dating.

Los Angeles court papers say that Krause and Clark had a "seemingly intimate relationship" and refer the court to "the enclosed documents by Dr. Clark, particularly the ones signed "fondly' and the ones with little hearts." Krause denies a romantic relationship with Clark, and says she is an "outgoing, loving person," the type who closes all of her letters by writing "Love, Lana." (Lana Clark declined to comment for this article because she said she had not yet been served with Alanna's lawsuit.)

About The Author

Bernice Yeung


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